Monday, November 30, 2015

POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2015, 1:22 PM
While the rivals are delivered by a public internet, Stream TV is delivered as a “managed service over the Comcast IP gateway” in a fashion similarly to the way it brings you cable TV. ((Joe Raedle/Getty Images))

Aggravated by the newly bumped-up prices for Comcast TV service? Help may be on the way from, surprisingly, Comcast, with its bargain over-the-top streaming TV service called, um, “Stream."

First released in the Boston area this summer, just launched in Chicago and planned for national rollout in 2016, “Stream” is  aimed at  the “cord cutter” crowd  which takes Xfinity Internet service but passes on the company's video packages.

 “Stream” offers  local channels, HBO, thousands of on-demand movies and “cloud DVR” recording of shows you can’t catch live, for a mere $15 a month (including taxes and fees.)

POSTED: Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 1:27 PM
Screencap from T-Mobile promotional video. ((T-Mobile))

Like to consume mass quantities of video on your smartphone or “phablet”  (oversized phone)?

Starting Sunday, the sky’s the limit if you sign up for a qualifying (Simple Choice with extra data)  plan with T-Mobile and activate their new “Binge-On” feature .  Out of the gate, it will offer unbridled access, not counting a bit against your data  cap,  to two dozen  leading streaming video providers – including Netflix, Hulu, Vevo, Vudu, HBO Now, HBO Go,  Showtime, Starz, Univision Deportes  and a big bunch of sports providers - ESPN,  Major League Baseball, Fox Sports, Fox Sports Go and NBC Sports.

Of course, some of those services  will  require a T-Mobile customer  to prove you get the channel as part of a cable or satellite TV service or on-line subscription.  But cord-cutters will be able to start fresh with the  20 channel “over the top” subscription service Sling TV (which most notably includes ESPN) via T-Mobile at a special year-long introductory price - $14 a month instead of  $20 – if they like what they see during a free week’s trial.

POSTED: Friday, November 6, 2015, 12:24 PM
The Roxborough "antenna farm" off Ridge Avenue and Domino Lane provides a big boost for some stations. (via Google Maps)

Are there really 50,000 watt FM radio stations in Philadelphia?

I said as much in a story yesterday about low-powered FM stations - then was called on the carpet by an advocate/activist for the cause, who demanded  to know where I came up with these  cockamamie numbers. He aimed to shame me with the “true” stats - the authorized power outputs for Philly FM stations - topping out at 27,000 watts (for WUSL Power 99) -  he found posted on the Federal Communications Commission web site.

But playing the numbers game is not so cut-and-dried. Broadcasters here and nationwide,  many claiming  50,000 watts for marketing purposes, calculate their power with a “real life” operating scenario and methodology that makes a whole lot more sense to me - and to their advertisers.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 2:13 PM
Roger LaMay general manager of WXPN radio. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

WXPN general manager Roger LaMay has just earned a ringing endorsement from his peers. The Board of Directors of National Public Radio has elected LaMay as their chair (can’t say “chairman,” anymore). The mission he’s chosen to accept:  to give direction to NPR in setting policies and overall strategy, to provide financial oversight and monitor performance.

“It’s a great honor and responsibility to be elected to lead one of the world’s leading fact-based journalism organizations,” LaMay said in a posting today. “NPR is peerless in its impact on our culture and democracy.”

A 30-plus-year broadcast veteran, LaMay came to work at the  non-commercial, member supported, University of Pennsylvania   licensed WXPN in January 2003, after a stint as general manager and news director  of Fox29/WTFX-TV.

POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2015, 12:03 PM
TV production trucks are blocking Market Street. Neighboring North/South streets are bottled up, too. (Jonathan Takiff / Staff)

They’ve shut down Market Street, man!!!

ESPN and ABC, that is.

Four huge tractor-trailer trucks loaded with TV gear and accessories – including tenting and a nice gas grill  - have totally blocked off the 500 block of Market Street  (with cooperation from Philly police) to unload and setup for coverage of Saturday’s Temple-Notre Dame football game.

POSTED: Friday, October 16, 2015, 2:14 PM

What would it be worth to Philly TV stations to go out of business, to give back their frequencies to the Federal Communications Commission for auctioning to mobile phone companies next year?

The FCC’s incentive auction bid opening prices came out today – and the numbers are shockingly good for some, mediocre for others.

Locally, the WPHL TV 17  frequency is most prized – worth $663 million if the broadcaster were to roll over and die, followed by WCAU – NBC10 ,  valued at almost $647 million if it opted to go "dark." If the stations  took the alternative route of relocating to lesser grade VHF frequencies – no loss for the 90 percent of viewers who watch on cable/satellite -  what the stations gave up could still be worth a lot of moolah - between $258 and $490 million, EACH.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 5:31 PM
Tracy Carluccio of rallies for Green Justice Philly. (JONATHAN TAKIFF/Inquirer Staff)

Aiming to block a proposed fossil fuel-based Energy Hub, a new coalition called Green Justice Philly marched on City Hall Wednesday to demand “no new permits for fossil fuel companies that are lawbreakers,” and to urge city support for alternate, green-economy programs.

A coalition of community organizations and environmental groups, Green Justice Philly has set its gun  sights on the city’s largest polluter, the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Oil Refinery in South Philadelphia  - the facilities formerly run by Sunoco. PES is the largest refinery operation on the East Coast and has ambitions to grow even larger.  But the ancient plant is “often cited for air and water polluting violations  and not deserving of new permits from City Council,” said Tracy Carluccio of  “According to the EPA, PES is responsible for 72 percent of the toxic releases in Philadelphia . . . and among the top toxic emitters in the petroleum industry nationwide,” 

Another rally speaker, former City Health Commissioner Walter Tsou calculated PES’s contribution as “700,000 pounds of toxic waste and air pollution every year. The idea that we’d build out an energy hub here”  (as proposed by PES CEO Phillip Renaldi) “that would ‘rival Houston’s’  would only make this worse, would double or triple the tonnage and lock us into a fossil fuel industry for the next fifty years, when we should be investing instead in alternative energy sources which are providing sustainable growth in other areas of the U.S.and world.”

POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 3:01 PM
"We can leverage the Spectra brand," Comcast Spectacor CEO Dave Scott said, adding the power of a unified advertising punch in trade publications such as Billboard, Venues Today, and the Sports Business Journal. (DAVID SWANSON/Staff Photographer)

Smaller towns need big concerts too. And Spectra Presents - a newly launched division of Philly-based Comcast Spectacor - will bring ‘em on.

Steered by John Page, also president of the Wells Fargo Complex, and an offshoot of the venue managing business Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, the new division “is all about better serving the smaller venues that need our help finding the right content to fill their seats and grow their business,” said Page.

Targeting both Spectra and non-Spectra managed arenas, performing arts centers, theaters, convention centers and fairgrounds, Spectra Presents (working alone or with regional promoters) will service towns like Enid, Oklahama and Clovis, New Mexico (with seasoned country headliner Dwight Yoakam) and Fayetteville, N. Carolina (presenting Third Day and Alton Brown) which the company chief says are mostly ignored by concert giants Live Nation and AEG.
“Their focus is running the major tours that hit the top 40 to 60 markets. So we don’t see ourselves going head-to-head with them in our promotions” which will focus on “classic rock, country and Christian music talents,” said Page.

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Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them.. Reach Jonathan at

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